Affirmation Quilts Ministry was founded in the mid-1990’s by Eileen Melia. She tells the story in a note to Pope Francis. She came across the material of a world map and it occurred to her to use her gift of sewing to make sewn prayer for peace activists. “Making this world peace map quilt has given me great joy! It is a small way to acknowledge my admiration for the courage and faithful witness that you, Pope Francis, display by standing-up and quietly attesting to God’s truth in such a humble manner. … Whether you use it as a blanket, a banner, a wall hanging, a prayer shawl, a prayer mat, an altar cloth, or gift it to another, my prayer is that it will honor your commitment of being a peacemaker. … may it serve as a visible prayer for world peace.”
World Map Peace Quilting
Eileen has probably kept the maker of that world map fabric in business with the number of peace quilts pieced together. I love that she puts the word peace on the back giving the world some inner peace. Without inner peace, there seems little chance peace at all.
In the cover letter for the papal peace quilt Eileen wrote in 2014, “You, Pope Francis, have not disappointed! This quilt is my personal way of affirming all you are doing on a daily basis to affirm the goodness of all the children of our beloved Creator.”
She tells him her faith journey has been enriched and blessed by her nursing profession, theological studies, advocating for the downtrodden, assisting, participating in the education process, companioning those on their final journey home, with, perhaps, the greatest gift being her health challenges.
Health problems are generally disorderly and disturbing of one’s peace. Peace quilting was steadying. Her seeing the holy opportunities in health problems led to more appreciation of and service with house-bound talents, baking for the homeless and causes, quilting for peace with pre-printed fabrics, and actively writing the ways of holy seeing.
Eileen writes a version of this quote from mine for each quilt: “As you know, quilting is for me a form of contemplation. The material speaks to me of the wonders of our awesome God. When I share my meditation, it is with the hope that it might provide others with an opportunity to see the holy in the mundane. Each moment lived in the present is a gift.”
“The material speaks to me of the wonders of our awesome God.”
Usually it is I who plays with double meanings of words. I just did a double take on that last quote. Wow, Eileen! The material, the fabric, and the material – the earthly plane, speaks to her of the wonders of God, of the spiritual world, and she seeks to help others see the ethereal in the material. Love that word play. Love that world play.
The main reason we found and friended each other is our similar disabling symptoms. Medically unexplained syndromes connected us immediately. We needed to share no nonsense information about how to live less desperately and painfully; how to stop provoking energy crashes; how to find doctor and treatment recommendations; where to buy high quality affordable supplements, supplies and so on. We traded hard won answers and new questions about the practical stuff. And, we also felt the yearning for a deeper understanding, for more than surface level fixes or symptom management. We needed to heal stuff in us that cannot be reached by medications or meditating alone. We longed for more revelation and resolution to dysfunctions that were draining our energies.
Blessed Offerings Into the Unknown
Even if a quilt is going to go into the unknown, for instance, if it is going to be auctioned off in a fundraiser, spirit moves through Eileen Melia to craft words so they end up being personal and treasured by its ultimate owner. In 2010, a woman at a Women’s Ordination Conference bid on a quilt called Blessed Offerings. Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore has photos of the quilt and the text of its meditation on its website page Blessed Offerings: A Quilt for Catholic Women. In 2014, Eileen received a beautiful letter from the quilt owner with the moving story of her using Blessed Offerings in her profession as a back drop during speaking engagements. Rev. Barbara Zeman was ordained in 2008 through the Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement which began when seven women were ordained as priests by bishops in full apostolic succession. Eileen was asked permission for the image of Blessed Offerings to be used for a new inclusive community group forming. She answered yes!
Blessed offerings into the unknown, more leadership with the feminine, continuing attitudes of inclusiveness and gratitude turned into keys for unlocking more doors into healing and recovery of energy for us and others. More map quilts sent to peace activists around the globe navigated Eileen to more inner world peace and intuitive inklings for the creation of many pieced quilts to comfort those with health challenges. The gifts of her Affirmation Quilt Ministry travel infinitely around blessing receivers, the Maker, and their witnesses.
©Elly Brosius, 2016. All rights reserved. Excerpting is allowed with credit and direction to original content. For full reprint permission, firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos supplied by Eileen Melia.